Sunday, January 24, 2016



 After all those little jackets, I end up with a huge bag of scraps, all DK acrylic.  So now, a series of jackets trying to use some of them up.  Yarn has a habit of multiplying when your back is turned, so I don't expect to get to the bottom of the bag any time soon. 

This first one worked up quickly - a simple Fair isle design from Sheila McGregor, repeated, and a rotation of pattern to main colour to give a bit of coherence.

 Interesting to see how the same theme in a different colourway looks.  Different Fair Isle patterns on this one.  I made the sleeves plain, as it occurred to me how tricky it might be to insert a new-born's arms into a stranded sleeve.

And a third one! It has been bitterly cold here, so I've done the odd stripe during the day, something I don't make a practice of.  This one looks like folk knitting, or the sort of thing you still see in hippy shops. 

And the bag of scraps looks as full as it did at the start.

Friday, January 15, 2016

If Winter Comes...

Remember this piece of Fair Isle from late last year?  Several times I was on the point of ravelling this out, but I never quite did it.  However, it occurred to me that it might be wearable as a hat.

I had 170 stitches on the needle; 168 is divisible by 7 for the crown.  I was thinking of one of those fancy kaleidoscopic efforts that you see on tams.  It took me several dummy runs before I got my head around the way the decreases needed to work, taking stitches from both sides of each segment.   The little trees are from Sheila McGregor.  I was very pleased with the result.


 White coverlet - I am glad that you enjoyed looking at this treasure.  Some years ago, a friend and I discovered that the fabric from which it is made is joined: three widths, each 30 inches wide, joined for both the top layer and the underlayer.  Does that prove that it was handwoven cloth?  Perhaps.

At the centre of the piece is a roundel, constructed like a wreath with alternating leaves of satin stitch and needle made lace.  Both layers have been cut through and the lace inserted, or possibly made by using the outline stitches as the anchor.

 Curiously, there are thirty-eight segments, nineteen lace and nineteen solid.  The lace is obviously fragile and some of the segments are in shreds.  There are seven or eight different lace patterns used, but not in any logical order.  Some appear four times and some only once. 

At the very centre, there is a round lace insert.  Oddly, the pattern on this has not been centred.

 Finally, at least for now, all the background of this large roundel is packed solid with French knots - there must be thousands of them.

Friday, January 08, 2016

White Coverlet

Some many years ago - late 80s - we were holidaying in Brittany.  We drove to Vannes, a sea-port from which boat trips out to the Ile aux Moines could be taken.  Pottering around the town, I checked out a few antique shops for textiles, specifically lace, looking for a small item for my collection.  There were coifs on sale, but at eye-watering prices.  On a table outside on shop, as part of a general display of cheaper junk, was a folded up textile item, obviously large.  I asked about the best price.  It was astonishingly low.

Single motif, in satin stitch and French knots.

We left it and went down to the harbour to eat lunch.  During lunch I was overtaken by that feeling that one gets sometimes, at least, I do, that I would regret not making the purchase.  Different to that other feeling where you buy something on impulse and live to regret it.  I went back and sealed the deal.  The shopkeeper rolled it up and stuffed it in a white paper carrier-bag for me to take away.  She took a felt tip pen and scrawled the name of the shop on the outside: "Les Brocs des Aristos."  This turned out to be prescient.

We put the item in the car, took our boat-trip, hired bikes and cycled along the low-lying islands.  Later, we drove back to the gite where I unfolded my find.  Even then, I knew it was exceptional.

Over the years since then, I have shown the item to a range of experts and have made some attempts at research myself.  Essentially, this is a coverlet, 90 inches by 90 - so it is huge.  It was made either early in the eighteenth or late in the seventeenth century, almost certainly in a professional embroiderers' workshop.  But where and for whom is something which remains a mystery.  However, it must have been made for someone very wealthy indeed, as the level of workmanship is so very fine and there is so much of it.

There are two layers of fabric, with no wadding between.  The top layer is a twill weave and the lower layer a slightly coarser regular weave linen.  Each of the many, many floral motifs is outlined in two rows of very fine backstitch which create a channel.  Through this channel pieces of cord have been inserted from the back to create a raised outline.  This is typical of corded quilting, but there is no quilting between the motifs - they are placed closely so there is very little empty space, but there is some.

Central device of coverlet.

Over the years, I have found that the piece is almost too astonishing to take in.  It is a thing of wonder, but the level of detail makes it difficult to determine the design as a whole.  But I have now set myself some lines of enquiry and will spend some time gathering the answers.  More about this later.


Saturday, January 02, 2016

Winter Treats

Some time ago I booked for us to go to a concert at Snape Maltings, thinking it would make a festive treat for us.  This was all before a family member, in another part of the country, was taken seriously ill and hospitalised, involving heavy duty visiting - just in case you thought we moved from one treat to another, in a kind of golden haze.  However, we decided not to cancel and set off for the Suffolk coast.

We will be spending Christmas Day a deux, and expect to eat a roast pheasant and, later, some smoked salmon. On our trip, we called first at the Suffolk Food Hall where we were stunned by the Dickensian excess of the comestibles on offer.   In my family, my mother had a set of recipes for the Christmas items, many of which were made at the last minute.  So, we would eat a roast capon, followed by Christmas pudding and rum sauce.  Tea would bring on the rum butter and Christmas cake and there would be a sherry trifle fitted in somewhere.  Dried fruit, brown sugar and black rum figured quite heavily.  We had no idea that this was historically linked to the slave trading activities of the local port in the eighteenth century - we just ate to the point where we all had indigestion.

After we had pottered around Aldeborough, we went to check in to our B&B.  Fortunately the weather was unseasonably mild as we were shown out to the car park where our room was an eco-pod - a self-contained unit, like a little chalet, with its own en-suite facilities.  It was very clean and we slept surprisingly well, just a bit strange.

As we walked to the concert hall we were struck by the closeness of the reedbeds - quite eerie at night time, the idea of being so close to a kind of edge.  Next day we drove to Minsmere, the RSPB bird reserve, for a spot of walking and bird-watching.  Very calming, as an environment to walk in.